Well, I celebrated another birthday this week. It was a terrific day, but still, none of us can run from reality. I have more family and job responsibility than ever before, not to mention gray hair!
Don’t get me wrong, I think people tend to get better as they get older, and I’ve written before about how I’m looking forward to life after 60. Still, even though the years will continue to pile on, I’ve put together a few ways to stay young. It’s not about fighting the aging process, but rather, embracing it.
1. Smile/Laugh often. Are you smiling right now? In about 98% of the circumstances life throws at us, a smile is not an inappropriate response. I realize that smiling can make you feel good, rather than waiting until you feel good to smile. And laughter exercises the diaphragm, nervous system, and organs, burns calories, and promotes healing.
2. Keep active. I still play basketball every week, and I hold my own with younger guys. Sports are mental as well as physical, and I find that wisdom and perseverance can beat superior athletic ability. Now, will I be dunking and taking charges at 60? No. But maybe I’ll pick up golf or jogging or horseshoes by then. Kids play all day. If you want to stay young, you gotta play.
3. Never refer to myself as “the pastor” or “we”. When I say we, I mean “we,” as in my wife and me or my staff and me, but I’ve heard clergy people use the royal we like, “we are honored to be invited to speak today.” Who’s we? You came by yourself. Are you talking about you and your Cadillac? You and your cuff links? You (all) are just asking for dementia to set in.
4. Remember age is just a number. I woke up on my 32nd birthday feeling “old.” That bothered me until I remembered that I woke up on my 15th birthday feeling “old” too. Same with 23. None of those ages is really old, it’s just a state of mind. I knew a guy who when asked how he was doing, always said, “not bad for an old man.” He was in his fifties–not a young buck but still full of vitality. He died at 60. Not saying his words killed him, but they couldn’t have helped.
5. Play with my kids. Elmo, the Smurfs, Spiderman, The Wiggles, The Princess and the Frog, that pit full of multicolored balls–this is the life when you’re raising young kids. But instead of just throwing a Thomas the Tank Engine at my 2 year old, I get down and play with him. Seeing the world from his point of view helps me with these next 2 ways of staying young….
6. Use my imagination. When I was a kid, I wanted to be an astronaut and a professional wrestler and a fireman all at once. I used to pretend that my house was a spaceship and the bathroom was the control tower. In my mind, it took off from its foundation and I had lasers to fire at the enemies….When you get “old,” you are told to stop letting your imagination run wild, which is really a shame. Letting it run wild as an adult while staying grounded in reality is the only to accomplish great things.
7. Keep learning. One of the things that I’m most proud of is the fact that I’m educated. But saying “I’m educated” is one of the most dangerous things you can say, because it implies that you have finished learning. For their own good, we force kids to memorize and learn whether they want to or not, and it’s important to do the same for ourselves. “When you stay green, you grow, but when you get ripe, you die.”
8. Don’t take “no” for an answer. Rejection is a part of life, but sometimes, as I’ve learned from kids, a no can turn into a yes pretty quickly. If a kid wants a graham cracker and you say no, they can really be persistent about it until you realize that they want to have it more than you don’t want them to have it. Anyone who ever has to ask for anything could learn from that. Once you’re “old,” you assume the worst and don’t even bother to ask.
9. Get more discipline. Kids don’t know much, so we set their bed times, control their diets, monitor their TV intake, spending, wardrobes, and just about every other aspect of their lives. Without that discipline, they would be in pretty bad shape. One of the good things about being an adult is that no one can tell you what to do, but looking at some of our lives, maybe we need someone telling us what to do.
10. Release the past. Two kids get into a fight over something trivial in the morning, and they’re sharing an ice cream cone by lunch. Two adults get in to a fight over something trivial, and they never speak again. Accumulating emotional baggage will not keep you young. Let it go. You are the one weighed down by all the anger and resentment you feel toward another. The fact that you’re so pissed you can’t sleep or eat is not hurting that other person in the least.
11. Don’t let society constrict me. A kid will walk around naked without shame, eat desert first, invent words, and use a fork for a comb. In 2010, I promise to do all of those things at some point! I’ll always play by the rules when it counts, but if you’re always chasing what everyone else is chasing, it’s guaranteed you’re missing what everyone else is missing, too. Besides, where is it written that your top 10 list can’t have eleven?